Feb 14 2022

Does Your Business Need a Cloud Center of Excellence?

These internal committees guide decisions about cloud governance and architecture and are becoming more popular among businesses of all sizes.

Whether they operate a fully cloud-native infrastructure or they’re just beginning efforts to deploy workloads in the cloud, virtually every organization today has some cloud presence and the intention to grow those deployments. The COVID-19 pandemic only accelerated those efforts, as businesses sought to quickly reduce their physical footprints and increase the agility of their technology infrastructure.

In its 2021 State of the Cloud survey, Flexera found that an astonishing 90 percent of firms were moving to the cloud faster than they had planned in the wake of the pandemic.

These moves create a sense of urgency for technology teams to ensure that they have the appropriate skills, technologies and governance programs in place to use the cloud effectively. As they work to promote best practices across their workforce, many organizations are now creating cloud centers of excellence to consolidate top talent and guide the organization’s transition to and operation of cloud resources.

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What Does a CCoE Do?

The primary purpose of a cloud center of excellence is to guide the organization’s creation of a cloud strategy and governance program. Members serve as thought leaders throughout the organization, helping business units and technology teams think through the way they adopt and manage cloud resources.

A CCoE may also serve as a governance layer that ensures the organization’s projects and operations take place in a manner that is consistent with its cloud strategy. For example, if a business unit attempts to use a cloud provider outside of the company’s existing set of vendors, the CCoE might intervene to help evaluate whether adding an additional vendor is in the organization’s best interests or whether the business’s goals might be better achieved by relying on services available from existing partners.

The cloud center of excellence also serves as a center of innovation. By bringing together the organization’s cloud computing thought leaders, the CCoE naturally becomes a hub for conversation and collaboration around new technologies. This aligns well with its governance function by allowing the team to consider the implications of new technologies and identify appropriate pilot programs when they are in the organization’s interests. Members must walk a fine line between balancing the desire to chase new technologies with the need to minimize the complexity of the organization’s technology portfolio.

Finally, the CCoE promotes information sharing about cloud efforts throughout the organization. In addition to using team members to share information about the center’s strategy and governance work, the CCoE should consider developing training and awareness programs that increase the skills of technologists throughout the business.

All members of the IT team should understand the organization’s cloud strategy and how it affects their work. The cloud center of excellence can sponsor workshops, training sessions, and other opportunities to enhance cloud skills throughout the enterprise.

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What Doesn’t a CCoE Do?

The CCoE is a collection of thought leaders from across the organization, but it isn’t an operational unit. While it certainly should have insight into and influence over cloud operations, this team isn’t the right place to centralize the work of monitoring and managing cloud deployments. That responsibility should rest with the operational technology teams who normally handle those tasks. This frees up the CCoE to work on high-level strategic efforts that advance the organization’s cloud strategy and ensure architectural consistency.

Similarly, it generally shouldn’t be managing or conducting project work itself. CCoE members might act as architectural advisers to teams building new solutions and migrating existing systems to the cloud, but they generally shouldn’t perform that work themselves. This allows the teams responsible for building and operating those systems long-term to gain ownership over the deployment as they design and build it themselves.

Of course, every organization’s mileage may vary. In some organizations, the cloud center of excellence may take on more of an operational or project role, but best practice would have it serve in a more strategic capacity.

READ MORE: Learn how crucial cloud governance is for small businesses.

Who Should Serve on the CCoE?

There’s no hard and fast formula for selecting the members of a cloud center of excellence, but it’s important to identify and include the organization’s existing and up-and-coming cloud thought leaders.

CCoE members serve an architectural function, and businesses will want people who have the diverse talent and experience required to guide enterprise-level architectural work. At the same time, they’ll want to ensure that all major technical disciplines and organizational units are represented; members serve as ambassadors to their peers, and unrepresented areas may feel excluded from cloud work.

One of the major decisions that an organization must make is whether service on the CCoE is a full-time work assignment or an additional duty for some or all team members. This will, of course, depend upon the size of the organization and the resources available. Many businesses adopt a hybrid approach, in which a small core team works full time on the center with a larger group of adjunct members who also serve in other roles throughout the organization.

Serving on the Cloud Center of Excellence is generally a technical role, and it should be primarily staffed by technologists. Organizations may also pull in project managers to help organize and guide the CCoE’s work, compliance and security specialists to provide subject matter expertise, and business representatives to provide functional insight — but those are complementary roles to the mostly technical work of the center.

Now is the time for organizations that haven’t already created a cloud center of excellence to bring together their cloud experts and get the ball rolling. Firms with such groups already in place may wish to examine the scope and achievements of their CCoE and determine how it can better serve the broader organization.

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